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Shopping, Santa, and Strings: Live Classical Music At The Mall

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Classical music at Liberty Place in Center City - a tradition during the Christmas season

Live classical music in a shopping mall? For roughly 25 years, it's been happening at Liberty Place in Philadelphia at Christmastime with Bach, Vivaldi and Mozart, courtesy of an all-female orchestra known as the Liberty Strings. But the Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns reports that this holiday tradition may be in jeopardy.???

David Patrick Stearns: There's always that odd moment in a Liberty Strings performance where you think the ten-member group is playing The William Tell Overture but, in fact, it's "Jingle Bells."  ??

Nancy Bean: I never in a million years would think of those two pieces belonging together. And so I have to admire the mind of a man who could visualize and realize how to put these pieces together. It's quite seamless and very very clever.??

DPS: Ex-Philadelphia Orchestra violinist and Liberty Strings founder Nancy Bean is talking about the signature piece - Jingle Tell - created by the late Sheldon Ginsberg. That, plus the novelty of an all-female orchestra playing at a level typically heard at the Kimmel Center and Academy of Music, has an impact.  ??

NB: The very first time we played, and we were all standing there in the bottom of the Rotunda and I looked up on  the balcony, all circling us and I see nothing but businessmen, everyone  in suits and ties, standing there looking down at us.??

DPS: In those days, the Liberty Strings played up to 20 concerts during the holiday season, some twice a day, with repertoire including Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. Though there's still Vivaldi and Mozart, Bach has been absent. It requires 13 players, and now, the Liberty Strings has ten - and only two engagements this year. Ever since the economy crashed in 2008, money has been tight. In 2011 and 2012, they didn't play at all.  ??

NB: Apparently the shops at Liberty Place got lots of emails and complaints that first year, why weren't we there???

DPS: After all, there's often one less Santa Claus in the mall. Bean's bearded husband, Lloyd Smith, makes cameo appearances playing cello - in Santa garb.??

Lloyd Smith: The doubletakes are just priceless. I always wave at them. If I'm playing on an open string. I'll wave with the other hand.

??DPS: Let's just hope they won't be waving goodbye.